In Christianity, there are a lot of financial perspectives. This can make life pretty confusing, especially since many of the economic perspectives contradict one another.
At one extreme we have those who believe wealth is a gift from God. If you’re rich, it means that you’re a good person – so keep it up! Your wealth is essentially compensation for your good deeds, and it’s yours to enjoy.
On the other side of the coin, we have extreme minimalists who believe that all wealth is a sign of greed. This group believes that, if you aren’t giving away every last dollar and living on the edge of bankruptcy, your faith is stifled and your spiritual life is heading south.
Most people fall somewhere on the spectrum between these two extremes, but we’re still left with the question: what lens should we use to examine our finances as a Christian?
Looking at finances through a Christian lens
As Christians, our answer should naturally come from God’s word. Twice in the Gospel of Matthew we find Jesus quoting Hosea 6:6, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
What does this mean? It says that God’s goal isn’t for us to feel guilty – or feel as if we have to sacrifice for Him. Instead, He wants us to make decisions out of compassion and love for others.
So how does this tie into our finances?
For Christians, we should look at finances from the perspective of good stewardship: maximizing the value of our funds to further Christ’s message.
In other words, our objective when managing finances is to be as savvy as a CFO and find the best use for every dollar.
When this is the lens through which you look at your finances, you realize that there are multiple ways to help people – including saving for your retirement, so you don’t have to be dependent on others!
Although giving is a critical part of the Christian experience, spending money to vacation with your family is completely acceptable! The key is to focus on maximizing the value of your money for Christ’s Kingdom.
What the Bible Says About Personal Finances
Once you have the proper lens through which to look, it’s time to go back to the Bible to discover what good stewardship looks like in practice:
1. Pursue Excellence in Everything You Do
The familiar Bible stories of Joseph, Daniel, David, and Paul all reveal people who work incredibly hard. Being a Christian means that you give your best to whatever task is before you. Your goal is to consistently give more to society than you consume.
As Proverbs 12:11 says: “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.”
2. Maintain Balance in All Aspects of Life
To quote King Solomon, from the famous Ephesians 3, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven...”
As Christians, we must remember that Christ came so that we can live life to the fullest – and that means developing a healthy balance. Should we eat? Yes. Should we over-eat? Not regularly.
With your finances, make sure that you find a healthy balance of spending on yourself, saving for the future, and giving to others.
3. Offer a Tithe to God
The Hebrew nation gave 10% of what they earned to God. This had a two-fold benefit: First, it ensured that the Levites were able to dedicate their time to serving the other tribes. Second, it developed a consistent discipline.
When we tithe and contribute to our savings accounts before spending on extra luxuries, we develop self-discipline, which is critical to the Christian walk.
Proverbs 21:20 says, “The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets.”
4. Be Wary of Borrowing
Your best bet is never to have to borrow from anyone. As Proverbs 22:7 says, "The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender". If you borrow money, you’re personally liable to that individual.
If you must borrow, be very deliberate to know that you can pay it back and pay it back as quickly as possible (Proverbs 6:5).
5. Don’t Take Advantage of Others
Particularly in business, the Bible is very clear that we need to have integrity in our financial dealings with others. While the world looks through a “maximize profit” lens when it comes to business, Christians should look through a “maximize value” lens.
With this latter perspective, you still try to maintain productivity and efficiency – but you also recognize that you have a responsibility to your employees and customers as well.
It says in Leviticus 19:3, “You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning.”
It All Comes Down to Stewardship
Good Christian financial management comes down to maximizing your contribution to society and the Gospel. Money isn’t your god, but it isn’t your nightmare either.
You simply need to deliberately track your finances and evaluate where you spend your money to ensure that it’s benefitting God, yourself, and others.